Finding a job after college is a job in itself. You have the skills, you've polished your resume, you've done your research. And still, you can't find a job after college. There may be a reason for that — eight, in fact.
Let's take a look at common mistakes college seniors often make, and tips on how to avoid them. Follow our job-hunting tips for new graduates, and you'll be even closer to landing your first full-time position.
1. You're spit-balling your resume to every open position
Emily Kikue Frank, owner of Career Catalyst, has seen plenty of job search gaffes during her time in the career counseling industry. Frank points out that, due to a lack of experience, these missteps are often committed by recent college graduates and entry-level employees. This group tends to cast a wide net in hopes of landing a job before doing any introspection.
"A lot of new grads are very focused on their background and their skills," Frank says. "Those are fine. But I think people should be spending time assessing their own needs and values, and whether they enjoy doing certain tasks or not. Remember, you've got to do this for 40 hours a week."
Take inventory of what you want in a career, and then begin your job search, Frank adds.
2. You're relying solely on job boards
"The first thing people do incorrectly is rely exclusively on the job boards," Frank says. While job websites are an excellent resource for finding open positions, Frank encourages new grads to not be passive in their search and leave everything up to a lucky scroll. Reconnecting with past internship supervisors or mentors, keeping your LinkedIn profile current, and reaching out to your school's alumni network are all ways to hear about jobs that may not be posted. If you can't find a job after college, consider reaching out to your school's career office, to see if they can assist you with your search.
3. You're not making in-person connections
Frank says employers are looking for a personal connection. "Do some networking," she says. "And don't be too proud to ask your parents for help. Remember, parents know people! They have friends and siblings. These are fabulous people to reach out to." Why? Because they know you. Having contacts who can vouch for who you are as a person pays dividends when it comes time to submit a resume. When you're looking at lists of jobs for college seniors, family friends and peers from school can be great resources.
4. You're sending a generic resume or cover letter
"Another really common mistake is not tailoring your application," Frank says. A little due diligence goes a long way on a cover letter and resume. Sure, it takes extra time, but that investment could mean the difference between your resume getting a second look or being tossed in the recycling bin. Read the job description with a discerning eye and learn a little about the hiring manager if you can. Then write your resume and cover letter, personalized and tailored to meet the requirements.
5. You're not creating an ATS-friendly resume
That personalization will have an additional positive impact on your ability to land a job. Technology has become the gatekeeper between an applicant and an interview. "Applicant tracking systems [ATS] have made it easy for employers who were getting overwhelmed by unqualified candidates," Frank points out. "These tools were designed to weed people out if they don't appear to be qualified for the position," she adds. To avoid being knocked out by the bots, make sure the words you're using on your resume and cover letter will filter through ATS correctly (easily create both documents using our Resume Templates and Cover Letter Templates).
"You get points for matching the keywords closely when humans look at it too," Frank adds.
6. You're submitting a misspelled, grammatically incorrect application
It may seem like a no-brainer, but Frank says she's surprised at how often she sees sloppy, grammatically incorrect resumes, cover letters and applications. Frank's advice: get someone from your field and someone outside of your field to proofread your material. It sounds simple, but it can make all the difference. While on a search committee, Frank had an applicant present an entire PowerPoint demonstration with the word 'served' misspelled multiple times as 'severed.' Needless to say, "He didn't get the job," she says.
7. You're accepting the first job you're offered
"My biggest concern with new grads or people new to a career field is their desire to accept the first job they get offered," Frank says. "Be thoughtful and careful. Remember, they're not doing you a service or an honor. They want you to work." Instead, tread lightly and make sure the job is a good fit. Frank adds, "If something feels off about the job or the employer, or one of the people you've met on the interview feels strange, it's worth noting. Don't make too many compromises. If you're going to get a job, get one you'll be happy in."
8. You're not getting a job offer in writing
"I encourage everyone to get everything in writing," says Frank. "It gives you leverage." That includes salary, vacation time and benefits. Frank suggests you say, "I'm interested in this job, and I'd love to accept it. Can I get it in writing first?" That way, you know exactly what you're saying yes (or no) to and can refer to later if an issue arises.
Still can't find a job after college? Think about these common mistakes and ask yourself if you're guilty of any of them. Then check out our Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder to create a complete presentation package that'll put your career on the fast track. Not only will using builders help you get past the ATS review, you'll be sure to have consistent formatting and limit proofreading errors.